Now Reading
Chocks Away, Chaps

Chocks Away, Chaps

View of the Houses of Parliament

It’s almost as if the Christmas truce never happened. After the lull in which they did us all a favour and piped down for a bit, the parties are now once again snapping at one another like there’s no tomorrow. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, they’re gearing up for what looks set to be the longest and nastiest election campaign in decades.

Back in 2011, as an enticement to his soon-to-be Lib-Dem coalition partners, the then Tory leader David Cameron devised a law that said parliaments must last exactly five years.

This deprived Prime Ministers of the historic right to pick the moment of maximum advantage for going to the country. Which was why Boris Johnson binned it.

As a result, Rishi Sunak’s now presented with the choice of best, or, rather, given the state of the polls, least worst moment for chancing his arm.

Last week he dropped a broad hint that he had in mind the latter half of this year. But left himself just enough wiggle room to go for the spring.

If he’d been too clear his many enemies would have written him off as a dead man walking. As it is, Labour’s already accusing him of ‘squatting’ in Number Ten.

And, anticipating the tenor of the next few months, Keir Starmer’s threatening to ‘fight fire with fire’.

It’s pretty obvious the Tory attack dogs will dredge up anything they can find from his lawyerly past and sling it at him, whether their leader likes it or not.

Point of fact, Sunak’s track record suggests this kind of ungentlemanly behaviour is hardly his style. But, not for the first time, he’s likely to be dragged along in his party’s slipstream.

Also, it’s worth remembering that that other posh boy, Cameron, started out determined not to get sucked into the yah-boo up-yours politics of Prime Minister’s Question Time.

His resolve lasted about a fortnight, before his minders rolled their eyeballs and admitted these things have an unstoppable momentum of their own.

Autre jour, même merde? Pretty much a given, in the circs.

But here’s where it gets unusually complicated. Not only will the two main parties be slugging it out in the usual way. There’ll also be lashings of internecine sniping.

This in part thanks to the newish kid on the block, Richard Tice, who heads the right-wing Reform party that inherits the mantle of Nigel Farage’s Brexit and Ukip outfits.

Though Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system means these guys don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of winning any seats, they’ll drain support from both Tory and Labour candidates.

And, to capitalise on his potentially destabilising influence, Tice has saucily accused the big parties of being: ‘Two sides of the same socialist coin.’

Unlikely that Starmer will lose a lot of sleep over that, but, given its manifest identity crisis, the Tory tribe most certainly will.

Actually, for ‘tribe’, best read ‘tribes’. And here’s where their problems begin. And probably, when the election does finally come, end. For most of them.

Rishi Sunak is already embarked on a major feather-unruffling exercise on that most intractable of intractable topics – Rwanda.

Roughly half his MPs have their sleeves rolled up in anger over the plan to jet illegal immigrants on a one-way ticket to a country ruled untrustworthy by the nation’s top court.

But the kaleidoscope of cabals that adds up to something like the other half are demanding he put two fingers up to judges the world over.

All of which probably leaves the poor man wishing he’d just quietly ditched the whole silly idea in the first place.

After all, having come to office promising quiet competence, he can justifiably big up the significant cuts to the number of small boat crossing over the last year.

Likewise the major inroads finally being made into the huge backlog of asylum claims the Home Office has in the past so lamentably failed to clear.

Both these palpable results are down to Sunak getting on with the business of addressing problems at source. And both would have been viable boasts on his part.

But no, having bet the farm on the Rwanda project, he’s faced with the prospect of his side tearing itself apart yet again when the bill comes back to parliament in a week or so’s time.

‘Unite or die,’ his plea when he took the top job, now has an almost pitiful ring to it, as the Christmas message from all sides was an Ebeneezer Scrooge-style bah humbug.

Of course he was right to call for unity, and the lack of it is so manifestly a key reason why his side’s so woefully and unrelentingly behind Labour in all the opinion polls.

The other obvious pointer is the ubiquitous evidence of sluggish or falling living standards and crumbling public services, after fourteen years of Tory rule.

Sunak does, however, have one secret weapon, though it’ll almost certainly come too late to save him.

Step forward Keir Starmer, who does, bless him, have a knack of looking as though he’s got the devil of a tummy ache, or someone’s just trodden really hard on his toe.

He can sort of get away with that when he’s having a good old grumble about how rubbish the other lot are, but the anti-charisma ticket might not work so well when he is the government.

Point of fact, he does have a slew of innovative ideas for top-to-bottom reforms, that might make a real and positive difference, given time.

But will anything happen overnight? Or even it the first year or so? Hardly, given that he’ll inherit a treasury with barely a bean in it.

So different for Tony Blair, who picked up such a fat fiscal nest egg from his predecessor. Plus he had one other advantage, which he shared with that other landslide-winner, Boris Johnson.

Smiles are infectious. Same as laughter. Amazing how much you can get away with if you can get people liking you. And how little, if they think you’re a party-pooper.

Or in the end, in Johnson’s case, a party-gate pooper. But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, it’s time to sit back and register the rude words. Not as if we Brits haven’t got a long and noble tradition in that respect.

Complaints about a road in Wiltshire being called Slag Lane have finally been overruled, on the grounds that the word does actually refer to the waste product of a Victorian ironworks.

Which begs the question of what are the origins of other fabulously fruity-sounding streets dotted all over the place.

For example, there’s Spanker Lane in Derbyshire, Hardon Road in Wolverhampton, Butthole Lane in Leicestershire, Crotch Crescent in Oxford and Dick Place in Edinburgh.

I’m not making this up, honest. And it’s only a flavour. Fanny Avenue in Sheffield also deserves a mention, as does Slaparse Lane in Devon.

Spiced up food for thought there for the nation’s politicos as they gear up to be really really horrid about one another. Hopefully, in the process, giving the rest of us a giggle.

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

Click the banner to share on Facebook

The MALESTROM interviewees everywhere
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top